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THE FIRST CENTURY OF LICENSING
We have made no study of the numerous instances of manorial or municipal regulation of the liquor traffic in England prior to the sixteenth century. It is easy to find, in such scanty records of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as are yet printed, curiously exact precedents, in one town or manor or another, at one period or another, for almost every modern expedient of dealing with the liquor traffic. Nor can we pretend to have made any systematic investigation into the working of the legislation of the sixteenth century. But in
Some of these are given, together with a good account of licensing history down to 1642, in the article, “Early Stages of English Public House Regulation," by Miss C. M. Iles, of the London School of Economics and Political Science, in the Economic Journal for June 1903. For examples of enforcement of the liquor regulations of the manorial Court from 1415 onwards see Fulham Old and New, by C. J. Féret (1900), vol. i. pp. 25-26; and the Manchester Court Leet Records.
order to enable the history of the eighteenth century to be understood, we shall give a brief outline of the course of events during the preceding century and a half.
The regulation of the trade in alcoholic liquors originated, not in any abstract theory, but in a practical necessity of the State. It was found that the free use of intoxicating drinks produced not only incapacity and disease among all classes, but also, among the “lower orders,” idleness and disorderly living, crimes against life and property, and even riot and rebellion. Total prohibition of the production and sale of intoxicants was, in face of the ease of manufacture and the absence of police, plainly impracticable. Moreover, beer, at any rate, was universally regarded as a necessity of life; it was the common beverage at every meal; and all but a small minority of the population habitually enjoyed drinking. On the other hand, the evils of excessive drinking were so manifest and so widespread, that the Government, in every generation, has felt compelled to do something more than punish the crimes which drunkenness produces. For more than three hundred years the manufacture and sale of alcoholic drinks has been brought under special statutory regulation. The primary object of this legislation has been
to prevent the social disorder and personal misconduct brought about by excessive drinking ; and the legislators have sought to place obstacles to the unrestricted sale of intoxicants to individuals. But this main purpose has been, from time to time, complicated and thwarted by two material considerations : the discovery, made by successive governments, that taxes on alcoholic drinks provided an easy and copious source of revenue, and the desire to promote the extensive native industries of brewing and distilling. Under the influence of these diverse and often conflicting motives, the regulation of the liquor traffic has, in England, been shared between the central executive and the local authorities. The national Government has always taken for itself the revenue to be derived from alcohol, whether in the form of royal patents, excise duties on the manufacture, custom duties on the imports, or revenue licences of the dealers. We might omit all reference to these national taxes, and to the extensive system of official control devised for their protection, as forming no part of English local government. On the other hand, the duty of regulating the consumption of alcoholic drinks in such a way as to obviate social disorder has always been left to the local authorities, and we shall find it